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Pennsylvania Buying a Vehicle

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If you buy the vehicle from a car dealership in Pennsylvania, the dealer is responsible for sending the titling application to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). If you have financed the purchase, PennDOT will mail the certificate of title in your name to the lienholder. If it is not financed, PennDOT will send the certificate of title in your name directly to you.

Obtaining a Title and Registration For a Vehicle Bought from a Private Party

If you’ve bought the car from a private party, you’ll have to file the title and registration paperwork yourself. You and the seller go together to the PennDOT location so that a PennDOT agent can be sure the paperwork is correct and that no issues are associated with the title. You must do the following:

  • Fill out Form MV-1, “Application for Certificate of Title, which is only available from the PennDOT agent.
  • Provide proof of insurance.
  • Show a copy of your driver’s license or other acceptable identification.
  • Be sure a safety inspection has been conducted or have one done within 10 days of purchase.
  • Provide a tracing of the vehicle identification number (VIN) or the VIN’s verification by an inspection mechanic or notary public unless the seller does so.
  • Under the terms of the state’s clean vehicles program, ensure any car newer than a 2008 model with a gross weight of 8,500 pounds or less and fewer than 7,500 miles on the odometer is certified by the California Air Resources Board.

The seller must do the following:

  • Record the odometer reading in the appropriate place in Section A of the Title
  • Complete Section A of the title and sign and print their name in the PennDOT agent’s presence.
  • Remove the registration plate. Plates cannot be transferred to the new owner.

Filling Out The Title

You must obtain the title form from a PennDOT agent and complete the form in their presence. The purchaser completes Section D on the front of the title. If the vehicle is to be financed, you must also include the lien information in Section D. If the lienholder participates in the Electronic Lien and Title Program, you’ll also include their Financial Institution Number (FIN). If the vehicle is being titled in more than one name, all owners must sign the title.

Registering the Purchased Vehicle

The PennDOT agent will register your vehicle when you or the dealer transfer the title, using Section F of Form MV-4ST. The agent will indicate whether you want a new registration plate or will take one from another vehicle you have owned. New registrations expire 12 or 24 months after issuance.

Submitting Payment

The base fee for registering a passenger vehicle is $38. If you want plates beyond the standard issue, you will pay a fee ranging from $10 to $81, depending on the type of plate you want. You’ll also have to pay sales tax on your purchase unless a registered dealer already collected the tax. Sales tax is 6 percent of the purchase price or current market value in most areas of the state, 7 percent for Allegheny County residents, and 8 percent for Philadelphia city residents. Acceptable payment forms are checks or money orders.

Last Verified:
Dec 29, 2022